Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Removal of Lead from Gasoline: Historical and Personal Reflections

Tetraethyllead (TEL) was first fabricated for use
in gasoline in 1923. Shortly after manufacture began,
workers at all three plants began to become
Boridly psychotic and die.

A moratorium on TEL
production was put into place, but was lifted in
1926. Between 1926 and 1965, the prevailing consensus
was that lead toxicity occurred only at high
levels of exposure and that lead in the atmosphere
was harmless.

Most of the data on lead toxicity
issued from a single source, the Kettering Laboratory
in Cincinnati. In 1959, the first warnings of adverse
health effects of lead at silent doses were
raised by Clair Patterson, a geochemist. In hearings
before the Senate Committee on Public Works,
Senator Edward Muskie raised the question of adverse
health effects from airborne lead.

As new data
accumulated on health effects of lead at lower
doses, the movement to remove lead from gasoline
gained momentum, and the Environmental Protection
Agency examined the question.

The removal of
lead would take place over the next 25 years, and its
accomplishment would require a severe change in
the federal stance regarding its hazard. This article
details the interaction of various forces, industrial,
regulatory, judicial, public health, and public interest,
that were engaged in this contest and estimates
the value of this step. ( 2000 Academic Press)

 The struggle to remove lead from gasoline, which
began in 1959, would occupy the next three decades.
Its removal would require a rearrangement of both
the scientific and the public perception of its toxicity
and a realization that children’s brains were the
most sensitive targets.

In the process, a 8edgling
environmental movement would gain strength in
contest with the lead industry, while responsible
government officials would be forced to jettison their
own complacent picture of lead’s dangers and realign
their long held pro-industry bias.

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